Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 hopes to totally refresh a series that hit some embarrassing lows during this console generation. The last attempt at a remake, THPS HD, didn’t meet fan expectations due to an entirely different gameplay feel brought about by Unreal Engine 3. Meanwhile, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was a disappointing critical and commercial failure.
Through a back to basics approach, the Vicarious Visions-developed remaster remakes the first two entries released in 1999 and 2000 with a proper current-gen facelift. This includes utilizing the original game’s handling code while adding abilities introduced in later entries like the re-vert ability from THPS3. All of the classic environments from Warehouse to School II have been completely updated with new art assets, level geometry, lighting and the ability to output 4K resolution. The same level of care given to the visuals and gameplay mechanics were also extended to its audio department as well.
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“Back in the late 90s and 2000s, it was a lot more compression within the game in regards to audio quality,” said Vicarious Visions audio lead Justin Joyner. “That kind of stuff has progressed due to more memory and processing power. You can expect higher quality all on that as well.”
An essential soundtrack
The heavily loved licensed soundtrack that essentially made tracks like Goldfinger’s “Superman” synonymous with the series serves as one component. A lot has changed in music licensing agreements in video game development since the original THPS 20 years ago. According to Joyner, some songs were even harder to acquire than others due to the difficulties in tracking down the publishing rights holder for artists who aren’t as well known today. Getting tracks confirmed involved a lot of coordination work between licensing teams at Activision and publishing rights holders.
“I haven’t seen them myself but I’m sure the legal documents are thicker now than they were in 1999 and 2000 with this kind of stuff,” he explained. “We have streaming sites now with YouTubes, Spotifys and things like that alongside social media. So, it’s not as clean cut as it once was.”
That meant some disappointment once Activision teased the official licensed soundtrack through a playlist released to Spotify in May. Fans were ecstatic that classics including “Superman,” Rage Against The Machine’s “Guerrilla Radio” and Naughty By Nature’s “Pin The Tail On The Donkey” made the cut. Though artists like Evenrude and Speedealer weren’t featured on the playlist, they were still featured on the official art.
However, fans noticed the exclusion of tracks like Anthrax and Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise,” Suicidal Tendencies’ “Cyco Vision” and “B-Boy Document ‘99” by The High & Mighty featuring Mos Def & Mad Skillz.
“We couldn’t get everything that we wanted to get,” said Joyner. “I can definitely say that “B-Boy Document” will not be in the game, but the vast majority of the best tracks of the original two games will definitely be there.”
When pressed on the possibility of older or newer music making THPS 1+2 through post-launch content, Joyner responded with no comment.
Updating Tony Hawk for 2020
Similar to the licensed soundtrack, many improvements were made to the sound effects as well.
“All of the sounds that you hear are authentic and they are broken down in such a way that they work with the animations on several different layers,” explained Joyner. “These all add up to sound like the real deal. It takes a team of people to do it and be hard at work on it. There weren’t any corners cut to make that happen.”
Everything players will hear in THPS 1+2 was created with care and attention to detail. Joyner said some of the various individual sound effects took days, weeks and even months to complete. Sound effects were combinations of using real skateboards in the field and recording studio. Improved sound effects for tricks and various types of surfaces were created alongside ambient sounds in order to make the environment feel alive.
“In the Venice Beach area, you’ll hear seagulls going by in the distance alongside wind blowing,” described Joyner. “If you just turn off the music and stop your skater, you’ll be fairly impressed. You’ll feel like you’re actually in that environment because we’re dealing with high fidelity audio.”
Between the licensed soundtrack and updated sound effects, THPS 1 + 2 is looking to have its audio experience match the improved gameplay mechanics and visuals. Be on the lookout for the remake when it’s released September 4th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.